Life lessons learnt from our young leaders

by Sue Smart, Development Manager, Youth Sport Trust

Life lessons learnt from our young leadersA few months ago, I was delighted to be offered a professional development opportunity at the United Nation’s Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) Youth Leadership Camp in Bradenton, Florida.  

From 6-18 June, 34 young people from 13 countries were brought together for a 12 day leadership learning experience. The Youth Leadership Programme recognises the potential that young people have to invoke change in their community especially in the field of sport for development and peace. The participants, aged between 18-25 years old, were all recognised for the leadership qualities they have demonstrated in their local communities to use sport as a tool for development. The countries that took part included Botswana, Ukraine, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Columbia, Guatemala, USA, Seychelles, South Africa, St Lucia, India, Tanzania and Taiwan.

The role of Youth Sport Trust International at the camp was to deliver ‘learning through doing’ leadership workshops. By this, I mean providing opportunities to explore issues relating to fair play, equality, mutuality, conflict resolution, cultural diversity in-country and in the global context, inclusion, religion and ethics. The international team guided the young leaders to reflect daily on their learning and when returning home, how they can best use the power of sport to enhance young peoples’ lives.

The programme, sponsored by Global Action Initiatives, involved a range of activities and learning opportunities from Badminton World Federation, Public Foundation, Football Association, Working Group for Women and Girls in Sport, Edgework and Ingrid Vandervelt, an entrepreneur.

This was an incredible learning journey for me, meeting some truly inspirational young people from across the world, having a growth mind set to learn and grasp every opportunity to listen, appreciate, and be empathetic of cultural and contextual differences.

Listening to the life stories of the young leaders was so inspiring. Mesfin from Ethopia made the heart wrenching decision to be adopted to ensure his brothers and sisters could eat. Niharika and Kalawati from India, provides football coaching for over 300 young girls with virtually no equipment.

Andrew from the States, returned to the camp to share his story about a fellow participant he met the year before. Andrew met Maclean from Ghana, who was paralysed by polio and abandoned by his family because of his disability. Andrew was so moved by Maclean’s determination to survive, that he started fundraising to ensure MacLean had a fit for purpose wheelchair so he could train and compete.

During the 12 day camp, I observed and listened as the young leaders increased their knowledge and acquired a wealth of ideas. They became more self aware of what they could achieve by implementing their own ideas using sport for development and peace in their local communities, to provide the best possible life chances for young people to succeed and achieve. It was a truly inspiring experience and I’m so glad to have met such an amazing group of young people who are true role models in their communities.

Youth Sport Trust International has been supporting the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Programme since 2015 and look forward to continuing the partnership to enhance the lives of young people. 

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